These are the places we go when we’re stuck, confused, determined, or in possession of the wrong size bolt. And also when we’re in need of guidance. Not the bar, not a therapist—the hardware store. Behold our first-ever awards for the best ones across the country—the best at seeing our problems, and the best at solving them.
It’s for more than a box of nails. — By Tom Chiarella
I always feel pretty damned good when I get into Headley Hardware (Greencastle, Indiana), because it keeps the birdseed on an end cap near the entrance. It smells oily and light. And 6-penny nails are clanked by the handful onto an ancient tipan scale, so the place sounds like the industry of the everyday. Headley’s is always lit like the top of the morning. No matter what the job, I’m always glad to be at Headley’s. They stack hope by the door in that place.
Wood screws, glazing points, pipe clamps. I have my little lists. The things I need. Headley’s always has that. It’s a well-stocked larder and it may be that I underappreciate the remarkable anticipation of its inventory. But truth be told, I come to Headley’s for two things: answers and eye contact. I gain an edge by coming in, by seeking out the knowledge, the problem-solving, the patience, of the people who work there. These guys don’t just mix paint and rebuild screen doors, they listen, visualize, sketch stuff out. They defer to one another. Finding a good hardware-store clerk is like finding an older brother who knows something. A great hardware store, like Headley’s, is like falling into a family of them. These guys don’t sell as much as work to discover what you need and what you should do about it. They give answers. They just give them away. They look you in the eye all the while, and let you charge on the strength of your name.
All of it, every square foot of Headley’s, the best sort of hardware store there is, makes me glad for the place I live. When I push back out the glass doors, I always feel like I got some answers. They pile up the mulch out there. It is loamy and promising. This too gives me hope.